Rivals of postal services operator Ceska posta should have easier access to the market, in line with an amendment to the law on postal services passed by the Lower House of Parliament. To get a license for the provision of postal services one will no longer have to prove expert skills. On the other hand, Ceska posta should have a clearer monopoly on the delivery of direct mail. The amendment aligns Czech legislation with EU directives.
Meanwhile, some three hundred Ukrainian nationals met outside the Ukrainian embassy in Prague to demonstrate support for the opposition candidate Viktor Jushchcenko and demand a review of the polls or new elections. They handed over a petition to embassy officials and appealed on the Ukrainian embassy staff in Prague to publicly express support for the opposition. Many Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic boarded busses for Kiev at the start of the week in order to join the protests in their homeland.
The regions should get an additional 28 billion crowns from state coffers next year in line with an amendment to the law passed by the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday. The amount is only half of what the regional authorities had asked for, but the Lower House turned down a proposal that they should administer money for education themselves. The remaining 28 billion, which is to cover teachers' salaries, will be distributed directly by the government. MPs said they wanted to make sure that the money would not be used for other purposes.
The former Czech president and leader of the country's 1989 Velvet Revolution Vaclav Havel has urged the Ukrainian opposition to keep up their protests against a disputed presidential election. "All respected domestic and international organizations agree that your demands are justified," Mr. Havel wrote in an open letter from Taipei, in which he wished the opposition "strength, perseverance, courage and good decisions".
Sparta Prague football club were beaten 1:0 at home by Fenerbahce of Turkey on Tuesday night. Sparta performed poorly, and the only goal of the game was headed into his own net by Radoslav Kovac. The result means they will come last in their European Champions League group - a win over Fenerbahce would have given Sparta a chance to take third spot and a place in the UEFA Cup.
A Slovak aid worker kidnapped in Ingushetia in June has been released. Miriam Jevikova, who is a student of Prague's Charles University and was working for a Czech humanitarian agency, has been in telephone contact with her family in Slovakia and is currently being debriefed by Russian security services. The kidnappers had demanded a $1 million ransom for the release of Ms Jevikova, but the Slovak foreign minister said on Wednesday the money had not been paid.
President Klaus has expressed support for Bulgaria's bid to join the European Union in 2007. But Mr Klaus, a critic of European integration, warned the Bulgarians not to have "exaggerated expectations" of what membership of the EU would bring them. The Czech president, in Sofia at the start of an official visit, was speaking after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart, Georgi Parvanov.
The chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has said that Czech Republic and neighbours Poland and Hungary are in need of serious fiscal reform. Speaking at a seminar in Brussels, Willem Buiter said the three countries needed to implement structural reform and increase control of public finances.
The Czech Republic has offered to help the authorities in Slovakia deal with the effects of devastating hurricanes which hit the Tatra Mountains at the weekend. Around 50 Czech fire officers are ready to be sent to the scene of the worst natural disaster in the region in many years. The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has sent a letter of support to Slovakia, saying the tragedy also affected Czechs, who value the Tatras highly.
The State Veterinary Institute has found that some fish in the Elbe River contain a high level of mercury. The chemical company Spolana which is located on the Elbe north of Prague instigated the tests, in an effort to refute claims by an environmental organization that fish in the river contained 12.5 mg of mercury per kg. The new tests found levels that were about one fifth of that amount, which is still higher than permitted.
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